Corporate Attack

September 25, 2007

In recent months, NACLA has been the target of an attack by one of the world's largest agribusiness corporations, Castle & Cooke. The company accuses NACLA of be- ing a fountainhead of "mis- information" and one of the main instigators of a social movement that is out to destroy American values. According to Castle & Cooke president, D.J. Kirchhoff, NACLA, the "Kremlin," and "ter- rorists" are leading religious groups and other respectable organizations down the path of revolution. Many of these charges appeared on the front page of'Bar- ron's (a leading business weekly with a circulation of over 230,000) which saw fit to reprint Kirchhoff's remarks before the Merchants & Manufacturers Association. Kirch- hoff has also attacked NACLA in university speeches, in business forums, and at the company's an- nual meeting. Why is Kirchhoff leveling this at- tack at NACLA and "those church groups that are either NACLA's allies or unknowingly provide an appearance of respectability (sic)?" He claims that his assault is "part of my responsibility to my shareholders, to my employees and to the American people." What he conveniently fails to men- tion is that NACLA played a role in exposing some of Castle & Cooke's corrupt and repressive activities abroad. THE HONDURAN SCANDAL As part of its world-wide empire, Castle & Cooke operates large banana plantations in Central America. In late 1977, NACLA 38 visited the company's operations in Honduras and discovered that Castle & Cooke had busted the union in its plantation there and that some union leaders had been thrown in jail. The company also assisted a military raid on a nearby plantation run by a workers' cooperative on lands abandoned by Castle & Cooke. Some of the leaders of the cooperative were arrested and imprisoned for well over a year. Later, in 1978, NACLA obtained and publicized official company documents revealing that Castle & Cooke made regular payments to Honduran military of- ficers, customs officials and local newspaper reporters. Church and secular organiza- tions, which had been pressuring Castle & Cooke for several years to end its more exploitative prac- tices at home and abroad, de- nounced the company's Honduran activities at Castle & Cooke's an- nual meeting in 1978. Like any good corporate citizen caught with its hand in the till, the company publicly claims that its actions are above reproach. "Off the record", however, it told some of its church critics that making payments to military officers and local officials is the only way that business can be conducted in a country like Honduras. Castle & Cooke is simp- ly following quaint local customs by scattering its dollars around in government and military circles. SMOKE SCREEN In public statements Castle & Cooke has never directly respond- ed to the charges made by NACLA. Instead, the president of Castle & Cooke is trying to throw a smoke screen around the com- pany's activities by mounting a campaign to discredit its critics. While some of Kirchhoff's al- legations against NACLA and the company's other critics are ridiculous and even humorous, the company's obvious attempt to stoke the embers of McCarthyism are all too serious. By portraying groups like NACLA as sinister Marxist organizations that are mis- leading others, the company clear- ly hopes to divide the diverse forces that are involved in the anti- corporate movement. NACLA's attempt to document and articulate a perspective that sees corporate abuses as an in- herent part of our economic system is precisely what has drawn such heavy fire from the company. Castle & Cooke knows that far more than its public image is at stake. The company's greatest fear is that the anti- corporate movement might spill over to a movement for more fun- damental social change. In reality, Castle & Cooke has good reason to be worried, as do the other corporate giants that dominate the economy. The fact that Kirchhoff feels threatened by an organization like NACLA (whose total budget is less than half of his own annual salary) is a sign of the corporation's loss of public credibility. NACLA and the company's other critics are not a "carping melodramatic elite" as Kirchhoff alleges, but are a part of a growing popular groundswell of disaffection with the U.S. economic system. According to a recent Harris poll, only 18 percent of Americans ex- press significant confidence in business leaders, compared to 55 percent in the early '70s. NACLA Reportupdate * update update * update The sources of this disillusion- ment are evident. The American people know they are forced to bear the brunt of double-digit infla- tion, lagging economic growth, high unemployment, environmen- tal pollution, and skyrocketing oil prices-all this while they watch corporate profits continue to rise. Revelations of political slush funds in this country and interventionist meddling on behalf of repressive regimes abroad have all con- tributed to the growing loss of cor- porate credibility. THE CORPORATE OFFENSIVE Castle & Cooke's attacks are just one small skirmish in a much broader offensive by the corporate world aimed at overcoming this growing popular disaffection. On TV and radio, in newspapers and magazines, the corporations and big banks are now selling us not only their products and brand names, but also the capitalist system itself. Mobil Oil, Xerox, Citibank, Exxon, Chase Manhat- tan-these are just several of the economic giants that have laid out millions of dollars trying to prop up the ideological foundations of capitalism. Other groups besides NACLA have been on the corporate firing line in recent months. Bechtel, a large transnational construction firm, is trying to discredit Mother Jones magazine for exposing the company's ties with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). And Nestle, another of the world's largest agribusiness corporations, has unleashed a well-financed campaign against a network of groups lobbying for an end to the sale of Nestle's infant formula milk in third world countries. And the Inter-faith Center on Corporate Responsibility, which files dissi- Sept/Oct 1979 " Those Who Believe in Capitalism Must Fight Back by D.J. Kirchhoff I wanted to speak with you today about a campaign being waged against Castle & Cooke by some so-called "public interest" groups, many of them church-related. This campaign has challenging implica- tions for everyone in this room-and for everyone who believes in the opportunity for people to grow in a climate of personal and economic liberty. What concerns me today is a more direct assault on our economic system. This siege is spearheaded by what can only be called a "movement"-an amorphous group of people who believe as an act of faith that capitalism is inefficient, wasteful, unjust, inhumane, ex- ploitative, monopolistic and profit-oriented at the expense of the workers. .... It is ironic that our principal antagonists, or at least our principal visible antagonists, come from the church community. Eliot Janeway puts it best: "The Kremlin has found a new outlet for its well known technique of harnessing the religious cadres it detests to the political conspiracies it hatches." Spokesmen from prestigious church organizations have confronted Castle & Cooke at annual stock- holders'meetings with charges so outlandish that they would not nor- mally warrant any comment. We have been accused of depressing conditions of our host countries, holding down wages and con- tributing to Third World malnutrition by exporting goods for profit .... I spoke of the attacks on Castle & Cooke by these church groups as being orchestrated. In one Central American country, where we have made important contributions to personal welfare and the na- tional economy, a leftist newspaper tried to discredit our operations by alleging that we were paying local police to break strikes. The seeds of this slanderous "Yankee go home" attack were sown by a Marxist, tax-exempt New York and Oakland-based organization called the North American Congress on Latin America, or NACLA. NACLA was organized in 1967. It is a principal source of so-called "research" against U.S.-based multinationals .... NACLA research may simultaneously appear in attacks against your company at stockholders' meetings, in the straight and under- ground press, in the hostile press at your overseas locations and in the journals that NACLA itself publishes and distributes. Castle & Cooke is a stabilizing force in our host countries, con- tributing to their political and economic well-being. We operate at cross purposes to NACLA and its front organizations, because they view social improvement as an obstacle to revolutionary change. We, therefore, are a high-priority target of NACLA and those church groups that are either NACLA's allies or unknowingly provide an ap- pearance of respectability ... I am convinced that our path, rather than theirs, is the one that of- fers more hope for the future, but it cannot be accomplished in a vacuum or by one corporation. Let's revitalize our corporate leader- ship and take the offensive, in the best tradition of American capitalism. Excerpted from Barrons-Feb. 19, 1979 dent stockholder resolutions, has been attacked by a number of corporations, including Nestle and Castle & Cooke. Today we are witnessing only the beginning of the corporate assault on progressive organiza- tions. As the economic crisis deepens, and as the capitalist system proves increasingly in- capable of meeting our most fun- damental needs, the corporations will step up their offensive. The at- tempts at red-baiting are also likely to intensify as the corporations look for scapegoats to blame for the problems they have created. Progressive forces should be ready for this challenge. CORPORATE PROFILE With sales of over $1.3 billion, Castle & Cooke operates on three continents. Founded in Hawaii by missionaries in 1851, the company was a leading force in colonizing the Islands. In 1964, Castle & Cooke bought the Standard Fruit & Steamship Co. (infamous in Cen- tral America) and is today one of the world's three largest banana companies. In the Philippines, where the company owns vast plantations, Castle & Cooke has been criticized by martial law op- ponents for its cozy relationship with the Marcos government. Best known for its Dole-brand pine- apples and bananas, as well as Bumble Bee Seafoods, it is also a major real estate speculator in California and Hawaii. One of its recently acquired subsidiaries, Bud Antle Co. (a large California lettuce grower) has been involved in bitter labor disputes with the United Farm Workers Union.

Tags: Castle & Cooke, agribusiness, NACLA, Honduras, slander

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